hullo kcrady... i reply with some trepidation as i've been very impressed by your posts... i know when i'm outclassed and outgunned.
Well, thank you, I think.
Here's what I don't understand though. In this context, you and I are in a discussion about the ultimate nature of reality (whether or not it includes the deity you describe). If you are indeed "outclassed and outgunned" in a way that really matters, then you are confessing that my model of reality matches reality better than yours. At least, that's the only way I care to "outclass and outgun" anyone in a context like this, or be outclassed and outgunned by them. The standard that matters to me is "whose model of reality is more accurate?" If you or anyone else outclasses and outguns me in this kind of context, then once I am convinced that I'm outclassed and outgunned (their model of reality is more accurate than mine), then my response is to update my model of reality to match or incorporate theirs. Since my new model of reality now incorporates the facts and understanding with which they outclassed and outgunned me, I am no longer outclassed and outgunned, or at least I am not as
outclassed and outgunned as I was before. I've learned important new facts about reality, for which I can be grateful to the other person.
So, what I don't understand is: A) why you should feel any trepidation in replying to me; the "worst" that could happen is that you emerge with a more accurate model of reality. B) why, if you feel "outclassed and outgunned," you do not consider updating your model of reality instead of casting about for other people's websites in hopes of propping up your current model? If your model of reality is more accurate than mine, then reality is on your side
, and it should not be possible for me to "outclass and outgun" you. On the other hand, if my model of reality is more accurate, then apologetics websites won't save yours. What's true is already so. Owning up to it won't make it any worse.
nevertheless, i think a good answer to the question of free will in heaven can be found here: http://www.comereason.org/phil_qstn/phi039.asp
1. Choices Can Produce Irreversible Change
The first important point to realize is that some choices we as individuals make produce profound and irreversible changes to our natures and our actions. The most obvious demonstration of this is the fall in the Garden of Eden. The choice of Adam and Eve to sin against God resulted in drastic changes, physically as well as to their natures. They and their progeny would now have a sinful nature - their proclivity would be toward sin - and they would become dull to the things of God.
This violates any meaningful concept of "free will." Never mind that, according to the story, Adam and Eve were never warned about a hereditary curse that would infect all future generations of humanity, make the Holocaust and the Gulag Archipelago possible, etc. and spread until it destroyed the very Cosmos, forcing Yahweh to start the work of Creation over again. Ignore then, the fact that they were not offered an informed
choice. The notion that "sin" would then infect everyone with an irresistible "proclivity" toward "sin" eliminates the concept of "free will." No one was given any choice about inheriting a "proclivity" from their ancestors that makes them guilty from birth. There is no "free will" in relation to whether we choose to "sin" or not. We have no choice in the matter. It's forced on us at birth.
Thus, "free will" cannot serve as an excuse, a "reason" to have a world filled with evil.
2. At Salvation We are Given A New, Godly Nature
All of this language says that there is something more fundamental going on in the human soul at the time of conversion than the forgiveness of our sins. We are indwelt with the Holy Spirit and given a new nature.
This is a testable claim. We now have brain-scanning technology that makes it possible to observe brain states, including mystical experiences of "communion with the divine."
If it is true that Christians undergo a transformation of their fundamental nature
at the moment of "salvation," it should be trivially easy to detect this in a brain scan. Furthermore, there should be statistical evidence of Christians behaving differently from normal humans.
4. Upon Death, This Nature Becomes Dominant in the Believer
Because we have two natures that are at odds with each other, there is an inner struggle that exists in every believer.
Again, this is a testable claim. Unbelievers like us, and believers in other religions would not have this inner struggle between rival natures that would be the unique province of Real, True Christians. The same kind of psychological testing that can reveal the presence of bipolar disorder, ADHD, etc., would also be able to detect the presence of a second, nonhuman nature in conflict with human nature as it applies to the rest of the human species.
So, either this nonhuman nature is distinct from unaltered human nature, or it isn't. If it is, then its presence should be objectively detectable. If it isn't, then Occam's Razor trims it away as an unnecessary and content-free hypothesis.
5. Christ is the Perfect Example of This Nature
The best example of what this divine nature is like can be found in Jesus himself.
All of the arguments above have demonstrated that it is possible for us to have a nature that is divine and loath to sin.
So Jesus had a "divine" nature that was "loath to sin." In other words, he had a "proclivity" not
to "sin." This is not "free will" in any meaningful sense, in relation to "sin." If Adam had been made hard-wired to be "loath to sin," then he would have been able to resist the temptation to eat the Fruit of Morality
with the same ease we can resist any "temptation" to eat dog poop. "Free will" means being able to make the choice you want to make. If your wants are hard-wired by an external agency to have a "proclivity" toward "sin" or to loathe "sin," then you do not have "free will" with regard to the choice to "sin" or not.
Watch how the author sidesteps around the question of whether Jesus could have "sinned" or not:
Now I know that this opens up a "hot button" topic on whether Christ really could have sinned. For more on this, I'd recommend the section in Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology called "Could Jesus Have Sinned (2). I will just quote from the conclusion here. "Jesus had the ability, by virtue of his divine nature, to perform [changing stones into bread], but if he had done it, he would no longer have been obeying in the strength of his human nature alone, he would have failed the test that Adam also failed, and he would not have earned our salvation for us. Therefore, Jesus refused to rely on his divine nature to make obedience easier for him." Jesus had free will and overcame temptation. He had free will and yet did not sin.
That he "did not sin" is not actually relevant to the question. The question is, could
he have sinned? To say that "Jesus did not ride a bicycle" is not at all the same thing as saying that he could not ride a bicycle, or that he never can ride a bicycle. Can
a person sin in Heaven? Thirty years is a trivial period of time in comparison to eternity. If Jesus could have
sinned, and his nature during the Incarnation is comparable to the nature the believer will have in Heaven, then the believer can
sin in Heaven. If Jesus could not have
sinned, then the believer in Heaven can't
sin--but this comes at the price of rendering Jesus' rejection of "sin" moot. He could not have "sinned" in any case, so his "sinlessness" is not some great victory, nor is there any "free will" involved. No one's going to give me a medal for being unable to flap my arms and fly to New York. I have no "free will" in relation to the choice of whether or not to fly by flapping my arms. Physics makes that "choice" for me.
7. Conclusion: In Heaven We Can Have Free Will and Yet Not Sin
In reviewing all of the above, we can see that it's possible for man to have free volition in heaven and yet never sin. We have a new, divine nature in Christ. This nature cannot sin, just as Christ cannot sin.
OK, so now he comes out and says that Christ had no option of committing "sin." With regard to "sin," Christ had no free will, just as we have no free will to choose to never "sin." In both cases, a pre-loaded "proclivity" makes this decision.
Even though Jesus could not sin, He was still free.
Not in relation to "sin." If he could not "sin," then he had no choice
in the matter. He could not succumb to a temptation or even want to, because, as he himself states, to want to sin ("look at a woman with lust") is equivalent to doing the deed. I can't choose to fly like Superman. If Yahweh or anyone else were to decree that flying like Superman is a terrible cosmic crime, I get no credit for the fact that physics does not offer me the option.
Therefore, we can exist with free will in heaven and we will not sin.
Consider the scope of what "sin" entails, and the massive amount of change to your nature that would be required for this to be possible. "Sin" is (as I understand it) generally defined as any disobedience of Yahweh, no matter how small. Let's say that you lost your virginity as a teenager, and you were not married to the person at the time. You may have chosen to "repent" of the deed, but you are still able to think back and remember how beautiful/handsome the person was to you at the time, remember the shared blushes at seeing one another naked, the rapture in their eyes, the thrill of your first orgasm, etc..
In Heaven, all of that will be erased
. You will not be able
to have or remember those sorts of feelings. For you shall be like the angels, neither marrying nor being given in marriage. Your sexuality will be deleted from your being
. If that other person died without becoming a Christian, you will be unable
to be anything but delighted that they're now subject to everlasting misery, no matter what remembered fondness you might still hold for them now. If one of your own children ends up in "Hell" (however defined) you will be unable to shed a tear
for them. Unable
. You will be unable
to make love to your spouse, or even view them as your spouse anymore. Every memory that includes "sin" will be erased, since "sinful" thoughts = "sin," and you will be incapable of "sin."
Go through the list of things you enjoy in life. How many of them will you still be able to experience in Heaven? Will you still be able to enjoy football or boxing? Sex is obviously out of the question. What about reading stories or watching movies that aren't about Yahweh, or which would be "sinful" in one way or another?
Will you ever be able to experience a thrill of danger, or of adventure, or of a difficult challenge to be faced? Highly unlikely.
Now, your nature will be changed for you so that none of this represents a problem. Think about this for a moment. Will this creature without empathy,
without sexuality, without a capacity for adventure or the enjoyment of fiction or sports or fancy cars, etc., etc. still be you
in any meaningful sense? What's the difference between this "change of nature" you get after death, and having your mind transferred to a computer or a robot? The "you" that anyone recognizes as you still dies forever.
This other person, loaded with a few non-"sinful" memories of yours will not be "you" any more than a robot likeness loaded with those same memories would be.
So, it is possible for a being to exist, be truly free and not able to sin.
Again, they are not
free in relation to "sin," which is the issue here. The whole reason "sin" and all of its horrible consequences exist is because Yahweh wanted us to have "free will" in relation to "sin," or so we are told. The "free will" debate here is not over the choice to have chocolate or strawberry ice cream. It's about having the choice to "sin" or not. As I've pointed out earlier, we are not given "free will" in relation to "sin," since we've either got a "proclivity" to sin, or a new "proclivity" that (when it fully takes over after death) makes it impossible for us to "sin."
The thing I find even more intriguing, though, is that it may expose one of God's grand purposes in allowing the events of the universe unfold as they did. Many times people ask "Why would God allow evil in the world to begin with? Why wouldn't he just create beings who could not sin at the beginning?"
Here I agree with William Lane Craig. In a debate against Dr. Ray Bradley in 1994 (3), Craig was asked why God didn't just create heaven as the world and forego the rest.
"No,Heaven may not be a possible world when you take it in isolation by itself. It may be that the only way in which God could actualize a heaven of free creatures all worshiping Him and not falling into sin would be by having, so to speak, this run-up to it, this advance life during which there is a veil of decision-making in which some people choose for God and some people against God. Otherwise you don't know that heaven is an actualizable world. You have no way of knowing that possibility."
"I'm saying that it may not be feasible for God to actualize heaven in isolation from such an antecedent world."
This is just idle speculation on Craig's part. No evidence or logic is offered for why a heaven without a sinful Earth would not be an "actualizable" world. Why could Yahweh have not wired Adam and Eve to be "loath to sin" like Jesus from the start? He could still call them "free" even if by their nature they would never "sin," and they would have the same "free will" believers are supposed to have in Heaven. How can that not be good enough? Is Yahweh not omnipotent enough to actualize any world he likes under any conditions he likes?
If Craig's speculation were valid, then "sin" would be metaphysically necessary
in order for there to be a Kingdom of Heaven. "Sin" becomes an independent and sovereign Power in its own right, able to tie Yahweh's hands and force him to play by its rules. "Want to have happy people in Heaven? Sorry, Yahweh, you can't do that unless you set up a world that includes Genghis Khan and Vlad the Impaler and Hitler and Stalin and priests who rape little kids. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!" Of the two Gods in this theology, Sin is clearly the stronger of the two.
However, there is a powerful argument against Craig's neo-Zoroastrian theology: did Yahweh not create Heaven first
? If there was a time when Creation was perfect, when angelic choirs sang in harmony and humans happily munched fruit in Paradise and no one had yet thought to rebel against Yahweh, then Heaven (defined, presumably, as a perfect Creation) was an actualized world. It was, in fact, better than what will exist when the credits roll on the Book of Revelation, because it did not contain a realm of permanent suffering for people and angels under permanent divine wrath. Yahweh had nothing to be angry about in those days.